World War 2 – Cropton Evacuee Story

George Hope’s elder brother Billy has sent a few memories of the World War Two evacuee years.
He stayed with Mr. Hammond and his daughter Hannah in the bungalows area of Cropton forest.

“I was seven when my mother and I stayed at Peepoday with Mr Hammond and Hannah.

Every morning I used to go through a small path through Cropton forest to make the trip to a bungalow near Peepoday to get fresh milk. I don’t remember any food shortages in the village apart from sugar. I know that each farm in the area had a rota where they would each take a turn to slaugher one item of livestock to make sure that the village would always have fresh meat”.

“Every morning I would have to take the battery from the radio up to the post office to exchange it for a fully charged one. I can remember the nights when we would be sitting around the radio listening to the broadcasts and it gradually fading as the power would start to run down. We used to get water from a well that was behind Peepoday. It was always brown and to this day I don’t know how we were never ill”.

“Every Sunday a handful of soldiers would have to take it in turn to attend the church parade in the village. Inside the church it was villagers on one side and soilders on the other. I can still see all of the horse and carts lined up along the main street just as the modern day cars are now as they attended the services. While I was staying at Peepoday Mr Hammond told me to go to Keldy Castle and Sutherland Lodge and sing “We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and can I please have a present from here” and as it was custom they couldn’t turn you away. Needless to say when I returned from my little singing trip I came back with my pockets full. To the best of my memory I don’t recall any children staying at Keldy Castle or Black Park. They were just for the use of the armed forces. I also remember when they used to dip the sheep they used the beck”.

“I can still remember Mr Hammonds horse “Charlie” and to this day I have one of his shoes hanging up in my garage. One Summer the village had a fete in aid of HMS York City. One of the stalls was guess the number of peas in a jar. I knew the young lad who had filled the jar and he told me how many peas were inside so I won (with a little inside information). When I came back to the village for Mrs Turnbulls funeral I took my wife for a walk down the forest and came across some fences with crows hanging off them. It brought memories back of when I was there with my mother as it was common practice at that time.”

After heavy snow Billy and a few other children decided they would have a ‘snow day’ from the local Cropton school and they went sledging in the field around the Cropton forest. They had great fun but their ‘snow day’ plan backfired. The next day the teacher asked why they had not been at school. “We were blocked by the snow, Miss” replied Billy. Unfortunately Billy’s neighbour was a nine year old girl called Ann and she had managed to get to the school. “Can you tell me why Ann was able to get to school and not you”? replied the teacher. Billy did not know what to say and the slipper was the order of the day.

Some of the children of the village used to dare each other to go inside a cave on the side of the hill in the Cropton castle area. The story was that the hobgoblins would get them if they ventured far inside the cave so no child ever went to the end of the cave, only so far. Billy believes the cave entrance has now been filled in.

Billy lived in the bungalows area of Cropton forest and one day when he returned from the school he met a man and woman on the road. They started to ask him questions about the area. Originally they asked ordinary questions but they started asking questions about Keldy Castle and the Black Park area. Billy was delighted when they gave him a sixpence and he told Mr.Hammond and daughter Hannah where he had got the money from.

A week or so later there was an attempt to bomb Keldy Castle and Black Park where the soldiers were stationed. At Cropton school word had got round that Billy had been talking to two strangers. The police made a visit to the school and asked Billy what he had told them. He had to give a description of what they looked like and whether they had a foreign or English accent. Very intriguing indeed!

During his time in the Cropton forest Billy made the unfortunate error of killing a sheep belonging to a local farmer. Billy was playing around with a large stick and whilst waving it around he accidentally hit a sheep. To his dismay the sheep died. He told Mr.Hammond what had happened so they decided they would bury the sheep in the forest. Billy was sworn to secrecy by Mr. Hammond because all the local farmers would regularly count their sheep. The farmer would no doubt go looking for the sheep After 60 years Billy has finally admitted his ‘crime’.

Many thanks to the Hope Family for sharing a few wartime memories from the village of Cropton.